Mon, Mar 05, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Many tales from White Terror era to be told

By Dan Bloom 丹布隆

As Taiwanese at home and abroad recently commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident with public lectures, film screenings and memorial gatherings in Taipei and Washington, the lessons and memories of 228 will continue to reverberate for future generations of Taiwanese.

As reported in this paper, a public memorial service was held in the lobby of the Rayburn House Office Building on March 28 "that brought together some 200 Taiwanese-Americans to remember 228 and the martial law that followed, and to express their hopes for the new Taiwanese democracy" ("Recognize Taiwan: Tancredo," Mar. 2, page 2.)

At the gathering, Lin Yung-mei (林詠梅) , the daughter of Taiwanese intellectual Lin Mao-seng (林茂生), recalled the night of March 11, 1947, when six men dragged her father from the family's house in Taiwan.

Lin said that her father disappeared and was never seen again, adding: "Injustice and senseless silence ... Now their stories can be told."

There is another story of the White Terror period that has so far been told only in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) and never in an English-language newspaper. Until now.

It is a story that needs to be told to the world in English, because it tells of a chapter in Taiwan's history that many Westerners can understand at a basic human level, since it is what a professor at Soochow University has called "the Anne Frank story of Taiwan."

The story, which has been documented in detail in English and Chinese on a Web site (shihruchen.blogspot.com) is about a Hsinchu man named Shih Ru-chen (許壬辰).

During the early 1950s, Shih, fearing arrest and possible jail time and even execution from the military police, chose to go into hiding at his elder brother's house, using a tiny crawl space his brother created in his home, to elude the authorities.

He was 37 years old when he went into hiding in a small space between two walls in his brother's home, and he was 55 years old when he died there, of natural causes, having remained "in hiding" for 18 long, unfathomable years.

Please read that number again: not 18 weeks, not 18 months, but 18 years.

Yes, this story happened in Taiwan during the White Terror period, and it has been documented in Chinese in a book published a few years ago by the Hsinchi Culture Center.

The book includes interviews with Shih's surviving relatives and a copy of the blueprint of the crawl space he "lived" in for 18 years, coming out only for short periods of time at night to eat, wash, go to the toilet and chat with his wife and two children.

Like Lin's story of her father's disappearance in 1947, Shih's story would surely resonate with people around the world, in whatever language they read it in.

Just as Anne Frank's "diary" -- written while the Nazis occupied Holland and her family went into hiding -- found a worldwide audience after World War II, so too can Shih's story find an audience in Taiwan and overseas.

Not many people go into hiding for political reasons for 18 years, and the story of Shih's ordeal has until now been mostly hidden from public view -- even in Taiwan -- and almost no one overseas has ever heard of this incident.

Surely there's a place in Taiwan's history books, novels, plays and TV dramas for Shih and his family.

Anne Frank taught the world an important lesson, and so too can Shih. There has been a "senseless silence" about his life, but now his story should be told.

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